A new year is almost upon us, which means you're probably trying to set goals for your team going into 2020. You're probably thinking about where resources should be allocated, and your employees are creating personal development plans to pitch during performance reviews.

So many people are competing for your attention and consideration that it can sometimes be easier to focus on what you don't want. When you have trouble determining what you should run toward, it can help to look at what you should be running away from. If productivity is down, employees are leaving or clients seem to be looking elsewhere, take a good, hard look at what you've been doing up to this point.

One thing you've likely been doing: rewarding bad behavior that looks like good behavior. Certain traits that look great at first glance can turn out to be problematic for your teammates, who have to deal with the downsides. Here are four your team is likely hoping you'll stop rewarding in the coming year:

1. Arrogance

Sales managers all over the world sing the praises of aggressive teammates who will stop at nothing to close a sale. But those top sales performers could be causing the rest of your team members headaches, from bypassing "unimportant" processes to creating new packages on the fly for leads. They may close the sale, but they may also be scaring off employees that shoulder the work they end up creating.

Don't let arrogant teammates believe that their high performance exempts them from the rules. Enforce reimbursement documentation. Make fast-moving achievers slow down and get buy-in from their team. Don't let self-satisfied employees avoid compliance. What comes across as drive and ambition could bite you in the butt later.

2. Gumption

The sister to arrogance is gumption. Persistence is a good thing, but it demands boundaries. People who walk in and demand an interview every single day for a week have gumption, sure -- but would you ever hire them? Employees who ask their managers for a raise every month may eventually wear their bosses down and get what they want, but are they respected?

Albert Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." This is where you have to draw the line with gumption-filled employees. Make it clear that if they can't exercise good judgment in approaching people and making requests, their judgment in other areas will be questioned. That may mean a loss of privileges or tasks they've earned -- teaching them that a different result isn't always a good one.

3. Agreeableness

People without a backbone live in a different world than arrogant and persistent people. They see getting along with people as an ideal employee trait, so they'll say or do whatever they think makes others happy. The problem is that what makes one person happy doesn't make another happy, forcing spineless employees to become lying shadows of the productive people they could be. They actually make more work for co-workers because they can't make decisions -- or stick to them.

Force capable-yet-overly-agreeable people out of the shadows. Directly ask their opinions first in brainstorming sessions. Walk them through the consequences of agreeing to everything. Explain that if they can't be trusted, they won't earn promotions -- you can't have a manager who's steamrolled. (This type is especially common among brownnosers, so keep an eye on people who mimic their bosses.)

4. Competitiveness

Some leaders like to stir up envy among their team. They think fueling a little friendly competition gets people's juices flowing and ultimately makes the team better. But people who are constantly worried about what others have don't often make great teammates. They bully, complain and instigate drama to manipulate the outcomes they want. They're different from their arrogant counterparts -- they'll follow the rules, but they're not above sabotaging others.

Force competitive teammates to collaborate. Funnel their competitive focus into making the team better. Assign them research projects on other companies in your industry to come up with plans or ideas for shaking things up. But make it clear that everyone deserves opportunities to succeed -- and that looking out for number one without regard to teammates won't be tolerated.

I've coached lots of entrepreneurs who don't understand how a "good" trait can be the undoing of a whole team. One owner told me he had a persistent and ruthless R&D expert. He kept wasting time and money developing a prototype that wasn't working. After six months, the owner asked why he hadn't tried something else. Abandoning his idea would be "giving up" -- and he didn't want to ask for help. Two strong traits quickly became a problem.

Examine what you've been rewarding this year. It may all look great on the surface, but what's happening beneath may be ruining your relationships with employees, clients and vendors.

Published on: Nov 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.